I’ve had the pleasure of knowing the author of The Gift-Knight’s Quest, Dylan Madeley for just over 10 years now. We met via the Toronto NaNoWriMo chat rooms my first year participating and in person the following year when I began attending ToNaNo events. When he mentioned during this year’s NaNo he was looking for people to read the sequel to this book, I jumped on it. I hadn’t read the first book yet, so of course, I had to order it. The Gift-Knight’s Quest had been on my ‘to-buy’ list since it was published, and this gave me the push to finally order it.
I was quite excited. Although I’ve never read any of Dylan’s work extensively, what I have seen of his writing has always impressed me.
Anyways, enough gushing. Time for the actual review.
The Gift-Knight’s Quest by Dylan Madeley
Premise: Chandra, the illegitimate child of the king of Kensrik, finds herself succeeding the throne. Before she has the opportunity to adjust, things are put into motion that are far out of her control. Conspirators, political enemies, and would-be allies threaten to make her rule short-lived.
On the other hand, there is Derek. He is a dreamer and a wanderer, uncertain of his future. His family, once noble and powerful, fades into the history books. Thanks to an old tradition, he finds himself summoned to serve his family’s greatest enemy.
Both Chandra and Derek must face the demons of their present and the chains of their lineage, all before their lives cave in on them.
First Impressions: There are some authors who, try as they may, cannot handle lengthy descriptions in a manner that keeps them engaging. Madeley is not one of those authors.
His words are stitched together perfectly, painting a beautiful canvas that ignites your imagination.
The plot and the characters are engaging–while the main plot does not reveal itself right from the start, the personal conflicts facing Chandra and Derek draw you in.
Summary: The Gift-Knight’s Quest is a fantastic book. Although far more challenging than I expected, it is engaging, with vibrant characters who grow before your eyes. Derek and Chandra begin flat and two-dimensional, as all characters do. Their development is not quick, but rather progresses throughout the story, which I feel makes them not only more believable, but also stronger characters.
One of the best pieces of advice I’ve been given as a writer is you should never tell your reader when you can show them.
Whether it’s who the characters are, the plot, the world around them–let your reader discover it with your characters. That is exactly what happens with Derek and Chandra. Much of the book, you’re still trying to figure them out, mainly because their personalities grow with each encounter they face in the story.
The story itself is intricate, deep, and engaging. Unlike many fantasy books, the fantasy component is actually quite minimal.
It’s there, with hints and little tastes throughout, but never bubbles over.
Rather, the fantasy element is like a deep vein within the story, pulsing and carrying it.
The supporting characters are wonderful. My favourites are Derek’s horse, Gale, who is a loyal and fierce companion, and the Captain of the Guard, Jan. Jan is colourful and humourous, but also loyal and dependable. He reminds me greatly of Sir Jory of Game of Thrones.
While the book stands on its own, it reads very much like the back-story, setting the pace for the main story. I’m not sure whether that was Madeley’s intention, though I personally think it works perfectly. It makes for a slower read, but that isn’t always a bad thing. In this case, I feel like it does exactly what it should–helps the reader understand the background leading to the current ‘page’ in the story, introduces us to the key players, and creates enough of an attachment to them to have us prepared for the sequel. This is not a negative in my mind, but something to be wary of going in.
Criticisms: The only criticism I have is regarding the back and forth between the present and the past. Both portions are not only absolutely necessary, they are interesting parts of the story, there is no identifiable transition. It simply moves from one paragraph being in the present to the next in the past. This can make it difficult to discern where you are, especially early on when you are not quite familiar with the characters. However, this does not break the story. It is more like a little bump in the road.
Conclusion: On a five-star rating system, I give The Gift-Knight’s Quest a five out of five.
The book is a delightful read, and save for my one criticism, I loved everything else about it.
While many reviewers seem to have favoured Chandra, I found Derek to actually be my favourite character in the story. He reminds me greatly of my younger self. Ambitious, but unsure of where that ambition could possibly lead. A dreamer with no direction to send those dreams. He is wonderfully flawed–while an incredible warrior capable of both outsmarting, outfighting, and charming people, he is also stubborn. Once a decision is made, he reads situations in ways that only support his pursuit rather than asking questions and considering other possibilities.
The writing is impeccable, the story is engaging, and the characters are wonderful. The story ended far more sharply than I would have liked, but did it’s job in conclusion well. It hinted at some of the darker, more ‘powerful’ things to come in the sequel, and leaves one excited to see what happens net.